In the late summer of 1883, Alfred Bradbury, a farmer, married Selina Richardson at St Thomas’ Church, High Lane. The 1901 Census shows them still living at High Lane and, by then, they had two sons – 17 year old John and Ernest, 7.
Selina died in 1903 and Alfred in 1907 and, after that, Ernest was brought up by his uncle and aunt who lived nearby. He earned his living as a calico printer at Strines Print Works.
It is not known exactly when Ernest enlisted into the army but his service number certainly confirms that he was not an early volunteer and had probably been conscripted in 1917.
Whilst home on leave, he married his fiancée, Harriet Jewsbury, on 27 December 1917 in acivil ceremony registered at Stockport. She lived at 57 Diamond Street, Heaviley and worked as a book-keeper.
In the spring of 1918, a large scale German offensive had been expected for some time and hurried preparations had been made to improve the defences. However, it could not be known where the attack would come or in what strength. However, it became clear in the early hours of 21 March, that the strength of the attack was overwhelming.
21st Battery would normally fire its six guns as one of the four batteries of 2nd Brigade but, in preparation for the attack it had been “lent” to the next brigade and was in position near the village of Morchies. The Field Artillery Journal, reviewing the engagement in its 1920 edition, noted that 21st had been placed in a “silent” position - meaning that they were not giving away their position by the usual firing of test shots. When they came to fire they would have to get the range of their targets very quickly.
The defences meant that there was a thinly held outpost line of infantry; behind that a “forward zone” similar to the front line trenches of earlier in the War. Finally there was a “battle zone”, where it was hoped an advance would be checked. 21st Battery was situated in this final zone. One of its five guns had been further detached to act with others as anti-tank fire.
The attack started with a ferocious artillery bombardment at about 4.30am which continued for several hours sweeping the front line and reserve areas. The infantry then delivered their attack. They reached the sector around Morchies by about 9.40 and quickly overran the forward zones. Already, 21st Battery was being shelled although it is not known if its position had been identified or if it was simply in the general area of the shelling. By 10.30, all of the Battery’s guns had been destroyed and, almost certainly, Ernest was now dead.
Harriett remarried in 1919 to Edmund Seaton.
Further information about Ernest, including a photograph, can be found in the book “Remembered” by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.
(With thanks to a descendent of Ernest’s for help in compiling this biography)